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Celtics notebook

Still marveling over Rondo return

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / May 10, 2011

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Rajon Rondo playing 38 minutes with a dislocated left elbow in last night’s Game 4 was overshadowed by a 98-90 overtime loss to the Miami Heat. Yet, the Celtics’ brass was astounded that he even managed to return to action.

The conversation Saturday night between Rondo and Celtics team physician Brian McKeon was intense. Rondo had just dislocated his left elbow in the third quarter of the Celtics’ game against the Heat at TD Garden, and McKeon popped the elbow back into the socket on the court. The quartet of Rondo, McKeon, head trainer Ed Lacerte, and team president Danny Ainge hurried to the locker room.

McKeon and Lacerte immediately began icing Rondo’s elbow while the point guard pondered the possibility of a return. Ainge needed to hear assurances from Rondo that he would be able to withstand the pain. Twenty minutes later, Rondo returned to the floor and played the entire fourth quarter as the Celtics cruised to a 97-81 Game 3 win.

The decision to play last night was Rondo’s and he spent the 36 hours between games trying to relieve the discomfort.

“It was obvious that Rajon was in a lot of pain,’’ Ainge said. “But Dr. McKeon was able to keep the elbow in position the whole way from the court to the locker room. They X-rayed it to make sure there were no breaks and then Rondo was never in doubt whether he was going to go back in the game. He was trying to hurry the doctor through the process of evaluating him. He just wanted to go in and take some Advil and get back out there on the court.’’

Rondo wasn’t nearly as effective wearing a large brace and pad over the elbow. He finished with 10 points, 5 assists, and 3 turnovers and was unable to go hard to his left or dart to the basket for layups when teammates drew double teams.

Coach Doc Rivers pulled him for 3:09 of overtime because he said he wanted more offensive threats on the floor.

“Not much,’’ was Rondo’s response when asked whether he was limited. “I had a little trouble going left. I’ll be fine. I’m playing. I want to play. I’ll be playing.’’

“Quite honestly, I’ve never seen one like that before,’’ Ainge said. “I’ve seen some guys come back from injuries over the years and had a day or two to get treatment. I’ve never seen anybody do that before. I really didn’t want Rondo to go back out on the court just because I’m concerned of our future, but the doctor assured me that we weren’t risking his future. It was a matter of pain tolerance.’’

The injury occurred when Rondo became tangled with Miami’s Dwyane Wade after Rondo knocked the ball away from Wade out of bounds. The two fell to the floor, but Wade appeared to pull Rondo with him, causing the awkward landing.

“I thought it was an intentional takedown, it happens in our game,’’ Ainge said. “I think those kind of plays happen a lot where a player gets a shot blocked and he grabs somebody or gets a ball knocked away and his first instinct is to protect himself and get the ball and you push and shove and do anything you can do.

“But I could not classify it as a dirty play; I would classify it as a foul.’’

When asked if Wade should face any NBA discipline, Ainge said, “No.’’

Wade reiterates In the once-more-with-feeling department, Wade repeated how he did not intend to injure Rondo.

“I said something to him when he came back into the game,’’ said Wade. “Rajon understands that it was a freak accident. It’s not something I personally did intentionally. It’s not something that anyone wanted to happen. He came into the game and I said something to him. He said something back to me and we moved on from it.

“Obviously, people have their own opinions and it’s unfortunate. But no one’s out here to hurt anyone. It’s a physical game of basketball. Me, as a competitor, I was glad to see him come back into the game. That was very courageous of him, very tough for a player to do that.’’

But when Wade was asked if he was “cool’’ with Rondo, he added: “Man, we’re in a playoff series. We’re not cool with the Boston Celtics. I’m not saying that at all. You respect what he did. But we have to win a game just like they’re out to win the game.’’

Defensive honors Rondo and Kevin Garnett were named to the All-Defensive team first team along with Dwight Howard of the Magic, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, and LeBron James of the Heat. It was the ninth time Garnett has been named to the first team. It was Rondo’s first such honor.

Garnett didn’t make an all-defensive team last season, the first after he had major knee surgery. He played in 71 games this season, and the Celtics finished first in the regular season in points allowed at 91.1 per game.

“It’s awesome,’’ Rivers said. “It means we have guys that play defense and buy into it.

“What I like about both of those guys is that they are more team defenders first and then they become individual. There’s no single great defender without a team behind him. As good as Kevin is, and he’s the best in my opinion, it’s the support of the teammates as well.’’

A few tweaks Miami coach Erik Spoelstra made some lineup changes, placing Joel Anthony, who’d been effective in the first three games, in the starting lineup to replace Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the front line. Anthony had 4 points and four rebounds in 31 minutes. Udonis Haslem, who had not played since November because of a torn ligament in his left foot, played a dubious 2 minutes 46 seconds. He picked up 2 fouls, 1 turnover, 1 delay-of-game infraction, and 1 technical foul . . . Rivers activated former Heat guard Carlos Arroyo, but Arroyo didn’t play. Forward Troy Murphy was put on the inactive list . . . Delonte West was the first guard off the Celtics’ bench despite a sprained left shoulder and played 30 minutes . . . Shaquille O’Neal played 3:31 in the first quarter, committed two fouls, and did not return.

Shira Springer of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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